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Sketches in Canada, and rambles among the red men   By: (1794-1860)

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London: Spottiswoodes and Shaw, New street Square.








Nobody reads prefaces on a Railway journey. The leaves are turned over for something to arrest attention, or to dissipate weariness, or to "fleet the time," which even at railway speed moves slowly compared to the "march of ideas." It is, however, necessary to state in few words that these pages are a reprint of the most amusing and interesting chapters of the "Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada," first published in 1838, in three octavo volumes, favourably received at the time and now out of print. The Authoress in the original preface to the work represents herself as "thrown into scenes and regions hitherto undescribed by any traveller (for the northern shores of Lake Huron are almost new ground), and into relations with the Indian tribes such as few European women of refined and civilised habits have ever risked, and none have recorded;" and the adventures and sketches of character and scenery among the Red skins, still retain that freshness which belongs only to what is genuine. All that was of a merely transient or merely personal nature, or obsolete in politics or criticism, has been omitted.

The rest, the book must say for itself.




December 20.

Toronto such is now the sonorous name of this our sublime capital was, thirty years ago, a wilderness, the haunt of the bear and deer, with a little, ugly, inefficient fort, which, however, could not be more ugly or inefficient than the present one. Ten years ago Toronto was a village, with one brick house and four or five hundred inhabitants; five years ago it became a city, containing about five thousand inhabitants, and then bore the name of Little York: now it is Toronto, with an increasing trade, and a population of ten thousand people. So far I write as per book.

What Toronto may be in summer, I cannot tell; they say it is a pretty place. At present its appearance to me, a stranger, is most strangely mean and melancholy. A little ill built town, on low land, at the bottom of a frozen bay, with one very ugly church, without tower or steeple; some government offices, built of staring red brick, in the most tasteless, vulgar style imaginable; three feet of snow all around; and the grey, sullen, wintry lake, and the dark gloom of the pine forest bounding the prospect: such seems Toronto to me now. I did not expect much; but for this I was not prepared.

I know no better way of coming at the truth than by observing and recording faithfully the impressions made by objects and characters on my own mind or, rather, the impress they receive from my own mind shadowed by the clouds which pass over its horizon, taking each tincture of its varying mood until they emerge into light, to be corrected, or at least modified, by observation and comparison. Neither do I know any better way than this of conveying to the mind of another the truth, and nothing but the truth, if not the whole truth. So I shall write on.

There is much in first impressions, and as yet I have not recovered from the pain and annoyance of my outset here. My friends at New York expended much eloquence eloquence wasted in vain! in endeavouring to dissuade me from a winter journey to Canada. I listened, and was grateful for their solicitude, but must own I did not credit the picture they drew of the difficulties and désagrémens I was destined to meet by the way. I had chosen, they said, the very worst season for a journey through the state of New York; the usual facilities for travelling were now suspended; a few weeks sooner the rivers and canals had been open; a few weeks later the roads, smoothed up with snow, had been in sleighing order; now, the navigation was frozen, and the roads so broken up as to be nearly impassable... Continue reading book >>

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